Eric Majeski's (aka Netwolf) Camp Reports for LetsGoPens.com
Camp 2009, Day 4
September 16, 2009
Groupings were back to the original setup, with two minor changes. Mark Letestu did not practice, so Ryan Bayda moved to that group an centered Luca Caputi and Nick Johnson. Wade Brookbank, who left early yesterday and did not return was replaced by newcomer Konstantin Pushkarev, who was added to the camp roster today on a tryout basis. More on him in a bit.
In the first session, I decide to focus on 2009 fourth rounder, Nick Petersen as he had caught my eye at times earlier in the week. At 20 years old, I believe he's to old to return to juniors, though he has not been signed yet. At 6'2", 186 he'll need to add muscle if he's going to make it as an effective NHLer. The tools are there though. He has good awareness/vision and is an above-average passer. His skating is also above-average. He doesn't have the explosive start of someone like Tyler Kennedy, but his top end speed in pretty good. He doesn't take many slapshots, but he gets his wrister away quick and has pretty good control of it. I'm curious to see how he does in some exhibition games.
At the end of the Group A practice, there was a shootout contest. Everyone shot (including the coaches). If you scored, you were safe. Last one to score loses, and in the past I know that person has to deliver cups of Gatorade around the room. Kris Letang scored an absolutely sick goal on Jordan Parise. As he skate in he faked backhand, then pulled the puck back to his forehand and between his legs, and flipped the puck upstairs under the crossbar. I remember first seeing Jaromir Jagr pull that off in practice years ago, and Mario Lemieux actually scored on it in a game against Vancouver with someone defending him (or trying to). Even though Letang was safe, he continued to take shots anyhow and would later get Brent Johnson to bite on a fake slapshot before going around him and dumping it into a virtually empty net.
Evgeni Malkin was one of the last people to score. He wasn't coming with much speed on any of his chances. Parise stoned him on one of his better moves, but he batted in the rebound. He celebrated, but Dan Bylsma wasn't buying it and waived it off. Malkin smacked his stick off the boards in protest. Two or three tries later, Malkin just went full slapshot from about 10-15 feet and scored. Maybe that should be his A move on shootouts going forward. Brian Rolston does it.
This contest came down to Bylsma and Mike Rupp. After each missed a couple of times, Bylsma put it away with a low wrister to Parise's right. The normally energetic Bylsma went with a pretty low key fist pump to celebrate.
As mentioned, Pushkarev was in Group B. He was a second round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2003 and was dealt to Dallas (with some other assets) during the 2006-07 season for Mattias Norstrom. He played in the KHL last season. If he played in North America for a while, then played in Russia last year, and is now trying North America again, you'd have to believe he wants to be here. Whether he can earn a contract we'll see.
The practice did not start well for him. He fanned badly on his first shot, missed a few passes, and didn't seem to sure about where to go in the drills. I guess it was either nerves or he was still sleepy, because he eventually showed that he has a pretty decent skill set. His acceleration and speed are pretty good. His passing is accurate though I'd like to see if that keeps up if he really snapped some. His stickhandling is great. He has a quick release and hard shot. He's also not afraid of contact at all and went at it pretty hard at defenders in drills. In one drill, one player is in the corner with a defender in the slot. When the whistle blows, the offensive player has to try to get to the net. Pushkarev was matched up against Brian Strait at one point. At the whistle, Strait moved in. Pushkarev waited until Strait was just about to him and initiated contract first, knocking Strait flat on his back. Having a clear path to the net he skated in on Marc Andre Fleury and started to try to get to the far post. Fleury moved to cover and Pushkarev pulled it back to his backhand and slid it in short side. It's just one trip through a drill, but it was a really impressive showing. The next time the two matched up, Pushkarev went right around him with a deke.
And that's not to say Strait played either one poorly. I think he was caught off guard on the first one. The second was just a great move. Strait's been okay through camp and you can see where his strengths are. It seems like he's just trying to do a little too much. I've read he really wants to make the big club and I think he's pressing because of that. He just needs to settle down a little. He should be a pretty solid defenseman in the not-to-distant future, like a Rob Scuderi with better passing.
I had wanted to try and isolate on Caputi and Johnson in the last group, but Sidney Crosby changed that. In every drill, he pretty much made you watch him. He was doing every drill at 100% as you'd expect, forcing whomever was in that drill (either playing with him or against him) to step up their level. What he can do on a pair of skates, particularly in close quarters is nothing short of amazing - bursts of speed, agility beyond belief, strength on his skates - it's just awesome to watch. It made it Alex Goligoski's effort all the more impressive. Crosby was whirling around, changing directions like mad, and Goligoski managed to hang with him fairly well. With each turn though, Crosby would gain a millimeter of space and after a while, would free him self up for yet another bullet of a shot.
The new and improve shot aside, Crosby found himself in the final two of this group's shootout contest, along with Jay McKee. I don't know if he was tired, didn't like how the ice was, or what, but his attempts were kind of bland. Mostly he would just skate it and try to hit his spot, sometimes making a few stickhandling moves (like he did at the Winter Classic) before firing. He eventually did hit his spot and McKee could not answer and Crosby avoided coming in last.
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